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Brain damage linked to untreated jaundice and malpractice

Kernicterus is a form of brain damage that occurs in newborn children because of severe, untreated jaundice. In most cases, mild jaundice is not a problem and fairly common in newborns. However, a significant build up of bilirubin, the cause of severe jaundice, can result in kernicterus and permanent brain damage. Untreated jaundice and kernicterus could be an indication of medical malpractice. Parents in New York who believe their children suffered brain damage because of untreated jaundice should contact an attorney.

Many birth injury cases, including kernicterus and cerebral palsy, are the result of medical malpractice. Brain injury can mean a lifetime of physical and mental disabilities for a child, as well as significant care and medical costs for a family. Those afflicted by birth injuries may suffer from severe developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, movement disabilities, hearing loss or blindness and other vision problems.

According to doctors, elevated bilirubin or hyperbilirubinemia, if left untreated, can lead to severe disorders, including kernicterus or athetoid palsy. In most of these cases, the brain damage could have been prevented if the doctor treated the severe jaundice. In many cases, the brain injury is the direct result of medical malpractice.

  • Jaundice causes a yellow coloring of the skin, eyes or other tissue
  • Mild cases can go away with regular feedings every two to three hours
  • If left untreated, the excess bilirubin travels from the blood stream into the brain tissue
  • When in the brain tissue, it can cause severe and irreversible damage
  • Doctors must hyperbilirubinemia with phototherapy or a blood transfusion to prevent brain damage.

To prevent kernicterus, doctors must perform physical exams and blood tests to measure bilirubin levels. If kernicterus has already occurred, there are treatments available to prevent further damage. If you believe your child has suffered kernicterus, you should consult with a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Kernicterus Brain Damage in Babies Linked to Medical Malpractice," June 29, 2012.

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